משמרת שחר ארתאח, יום ראשון 31.10.10
. We arrived at 04:30. Dozens of laborers had already come through after being inspected. They said it was difficult, and inspections took a long time. They point to an old man with a cane who fell inside the terminal today.
We stand in the back, where people wait to enter the installation. From a distance we hear the hubbub and voices of the many, many people standing crowded between the fences. Many people, mainly men and a very few women, stand crowded in front of the revolving gates, waiting for them to be opened, when they’ll run toward the metal detector at the entrance to the building. Two revolving gates open every 2-5 minutes, even though there are three on site, and then dozens of people flow in, crowding in as fast as they can because the gate will close again, and if someone is trapped within he doesn’t even complain. We count how many enter at a time – between 20 to 130 people. It all depends how quickly the person controlling the revolving gate presses the button, and how fast the crowds who have been waiting an hour or more between the fences can push their way in. Everything occurs in an oppressive silence, without complaint, as if this were the natural order of things. Remember – these are the lucky ones who, after applying many times and being sent hither and yon through the Occupation’s cruel bureaucracy, succeeded in obtaining a permit to work in Israel. Even then, most of them will earn less than the minimum wage, being exploited again, this time by the Israeli employer, who also benefits from the Occupation.
From time to time someone is turned back after having waited about two hours on line, which began forming at 02:00. The bureaucracy failed. Either the electronic reader couldn’t identify his palm-print, worn away by manual labor, or he forgot some document at home, or his magnetic card broke. According to the Ecumenicals’ report, 16 people were turned back this morning, most of them because their palm-prints didn’t match the ones in the system.
On the Palestinian side of the fence we met two of the Ecumenical volunteers who spend three months in Israel, and stand every day at Irtach to report what goes on there. They tell us that today, in addition to in being Sunday, there are more people than last Sunday. Perhaps it’s because the olive harvest in ending and the Palestinians are returning to their regular jobs. They count how many go through. 800 had crossed by the time we arrived. Today the installation opened before 04:00.
They say they have problems entering Israel. As we read in the paper, it’s apparently customary to try to prevent activists from human rights organization to enter our country (the only democracy in the middle east).
They sent us their report about the number of people crossing. Their numbers don’t match ours.
The number of women is about 10% than of the men. As is well know, Arab society frowns on contact between men and women. It’s possible to open a separate lane for women, but this hasn’t been done. Women who arrive early, before the installation opens, go through first, but those who come later have to crowd in with the men, which is extremely unpleasant, to say the least, for any woman. But what won’t they do in order to earn a living.
There are also some younger people who try to sneak in from the side and cut the line by climbing on the fences enclosing the line. Before the fences were erected to maintain order in line, younger men frequently would climb over people to get ahead.
05:30 We move to the other side of the installation, where people exit after inspection.
We count how many come out in five minutes – 77 one time, 112 another time. That’s much fewer than the number entering from the other side. In other words, they’re being delayed within for a long time.
We were told there were many problems last Friday, because the facility opened later, after 05:00. Only one revolving gate was in use and the crowding was awful. One of the laborers told us he waited from 03:00 until 06:30, but still hadn’t gone through inspection; having missed his employer’s ride, he returned home. Remember that there are people who have to get to Tel Aviv, to Rishon and even to Yavneh from here to begin their work day.
We read in a previous report that the manager of the installation claimed fewer laborers cross on Friday, which is why they open later, but the fact is that the needs aren’t being met, and it’s the wretched, oppressed laborers who are paying the costs that the company operating the facility is saving, those who have no say or opportunity to fight for the most basic conditions.
The laborers say that Friday and Sunday are the hardest days.
A man approaches us. He was injured on the job. His hand is in a cast. He has an appointment at an Israeli hospital. He’s been delayed longer than the others, from 04:30, and only now, at 06:00, has he come out.
Another laborer comes from the Jenin area. He arrived at 03:00, and it’s now 06:00. He has to get to work in Gedera. By the time he makes it through all the morning traffic – when will his work day start?
Someone else tells us that since he visited Egypt the GSS refuses to approve a work permit for him. That is, the GSS believes he’s too dangerous to work in Israel. He lost his source of income. We referred him to Silvia, who might be able to help him.
At 06:30 there was no longer a line at the rear of the installation.